Thursday, October 28, 2010

Don't Get Distracted - Just Vote

With the election less than five days away, reports of alleged voter fraud are coming in from various counties and states across the country.  Allegedly, our military men and women serving our great nation overseas are being prevented from voting in at least two states, IL and NY.  And there is the spin that if the Republican party takes over the House and Senate in this election, it will actually help President Obama pass his agenda and ensure his reelection in 2012.
 
Does this constant news leave you feeling a bit discouraged about Election Day next week? Are you concerned that your vote won’t count? Or that possibly the voting machine won’t accurately record your vote?

Or are you on the opposite spectrum, so confident that the rolling tide will sweep out the big spenders and big government supporters that you might not make the effort to vote on Tuesday?  After all, the pundits and polls all show a huge unprecedented sweep for the Conservative candidates.

Now is the time to keep your focus and determination. Do not be distracted by the news, the pundits or political insiders. Your greatest responsibility right now is simply to vote.  Don’t worry about the alleged fraud, voter intimidation, or rolling tide. Educate yourself on the candidates and issues, pray about your choice, and then make it a priority to go to the polls and vote.

If you feel particularly motivated to do something, there is still time to donate money or time to a candidate in your area or a challenger facing an uphill battle.  Poll watchers are still needed to document any possible voter fraud or incidents of voter intimidation.  Engage in polite, respectful discussions with your friends and neighbors about the candidates and issues, and encourage them to exercise their moral and public duty by showing up to vote on Tuesday. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Party Reminds Us to Respect Life of Elderly and Infirm

How a Halloween party reminds us to Respect the life of the elderly and infirm
Even though the Houston weather doesn’t necessarily agree, Fall is upon us.  Every Fall my family enjoys attending the Halloween Party at my grandmother’s assisted living and memory care center.  As I have previously written about, Shelly and I have a grandmother suffering from dementia.

Increasingly over the last year, the recognition usually present in her eyes when I walk in the room, has diminished; however, within several minutes of our arrival she seems to have forgotten that she isn’t quite sure who we are, and accepted that we are there to be with her.

Even though this year the party fell on the busiest night for our family activities, this annual party is a top priority, having become so important to both to my kids and grandmother.  While attending a party at a nursing home may not sound very exciting, I have discovered an exciting reason to attend – the smile on my grandmother’s face. Dementia has robbed my grandmother not only of her unique personality but also most of her emotions.  For this short time, we catch glimpses of our “Granny” within her still healthy body.  Her smile radiates while laughing at the antics of my children, especially those of my youngest.


Even though she won’t remember we were ever there a mere ten minutes after we’ve left, I know that for a short time she enjoyed herself. This annual party is such a gift. A gift to my grandmother, my mother, my children and myself. The memories we hold from these years of Halloween parties will hopefully stay with us for a lifetime.

As we approach the end of Respect Life month, please remember that Respecting Life is not only about the vulnerable unborn, but also includes the elderly and infirm. 
Respect Life Month is a great time to make a commitment to remembering and supporting our elderly and infirm with the dignity and respect they so richly deserve.  







Monday, October 25, 2010

Sometimes God gives you a push

After the positive experience of attending the CNMC last year and being welcomed into this new Catholic New Media movement across social networking, I found myself desiring a more solid connection with our parish priest and church community. Though I'd spent two years assisting with CCE, I resolved to become more involved with my parish, seeking opportunities to develop friendships and relationships with other Christians based on our faith.

Over a year ago, Lisa and I posed the question “How well do you know your parish priests?” Within days of that post, a letter from my church arrived on a busy afternoon. I only half-glanced at it, thinking it a form letter probably asking for donations, then dropped the folded letter into my work back side sleeve “to read later,” and promptly forgot about it.

About ten days later, someone I knew slightly from the elementary school PTA stopped me after Mass to express her surprise that I wasn’t at the meeting earlier that week. “What meeting?” I asked.

Apparently the “form letter” I so casually set aside invited me, personally, to an informational meeting in response to my nomination to Pastoral Council. Embarrassed to admit that I not only hadn’t read the letter entirely, but also had no idea of the present whereabouts of the letter, I stammered something in reply. She encouraged me to find the letter and attend the second meeting.

If today you hear His voice, harden not your heart (Psalm 95)


If it hadn’t been for her insistence, I might never have attended that second informational meeting. Or much later found the wayward letter in the side sleeve of my work bag. Or retreated to my bedroom one Sunday afternoon with a handful of scriptures to prayerfully discern whether God truly called me to this. Or had a serious discussion with my husband about attending the final discernment. Or discovered through the discernment process that I really did hear God calling me.

From my first year of service on Pastoral Council, I’ve experienced what happens when we heed God’s call. I’ve learned that God’s call is not about me at all. It’s about accepting His will with humility, even though we are occasionally uncomfortable or unsure about the path. We yield ourselves to Him, allowing Him to work through us to help others. And in return, He fulfills our own needs.

Be open to discerning God’s call in your own life. Sometimes God doesn’t just call…. He sends someone to give you a push.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

President Obama Omits Creator in Declaration of Independence Again

For the third time in just over a month, President Obama recited the most familiar part of the Declaration incorrectly.  The first time it happened, many thought it was just a coincidence, perhaps a teleprompter error. The fact that he has now repeatedly omitted the exact same words from the Declaration three times in a month leads me to conclude this is no accident.

The often-quoted, beloved, sentence, as written in the Declaration, reads:

When President Obama recites this famous sentence, he omits the phrase, “by their Creator.”  We could give him the benefit of the doubt, that he simply misspoke during these speeches. However, I have a difficult time following that logic since the President is generally recognized as an accomplished speaker, with many aides and speechwriters who without a doubt informed him of his omission the first and second times.

When a reporter asked Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the President’s repeated omission of a reference to our Creator, Gibbs shrugged it off, "I haven't seen the comments, but I can assure you the president believes in the Declaration of Independence,"

Three times, President Obama has said, “that all men are created equal, endowed with certain unalienable Rights…” His omission begs the question, “Who endowed these rights on Americans?”  The word “endow” means to furnish, to provide, to supply; if men are “endowed” with certain unalienable rights –rights that cannot be surrendered, sold, or transferred to someone else – then who provided them?  When the President purposefully omits “by their Creator” from the Declaration of Independence, one of our most invaluable founding documents, it opens the door for his detractors to suggest he does not recognize the role of God in our country.

President Obama is on record that he believes the United States Constitution is fundamentally flawed.  In his speeches and writings, he clearly claims that the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties – stating only what the state and federal government can’t do, but not what the federal government must do. 

Reading and listening to his words, you come to understand that the President does not comprehend the beauty of natural law as a founding principle.  By omitting this vital part of our Declaration of Independence, the President commits a grave injustice to the basic ideas upon which we were founded.  For a government to express that its citizens are endowed with unalienable rights by God was revolutionary at the time.  Those words tell the world that all men possess natural rights that cannot be taken away by men or government.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution go hand in hand first acknowledging the unalienable rights of the individual and then establishing a government to govern, respective of said rights.  Americans are raised with this belief of natural rights and take it for granted that they are independent of government. But, in order to place the correct value on our natural rights, we must understand where they come from.

Our Founding Fathers were not vague, they explicitly attributed our rights to God.  You cannot take our Creator out of the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution or our Founding without drastically altering our great nation. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where is Separation of Church & State in the Constitution?

The question on many minds today is...

Where is Separation of Church & State in the Constitution?

Senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell asked that question of her opponent during a campaign debate. The audience, comprised of lawyers and law students, audibly gasped before her opponent smugly told her the clause was in the First Amendment.

Except that it’s not.

The media is attempting to use this exchange to show that O’Donnell is not intelligent and does not understand a fundamental clause in the United States Constitution. Rather, we should be seriously concerned about the fact that the lawyers, law students, the Democrat candidate and the media DO NOT understand the First Amendment as written.

Christine O’Donnell was correct to question her opponent’s statement that the clause, “Separation of Church and State” is in the Constitution because it is NOT in the Constitution. It is not even in the Bill of Rights.


In fact, the phrase, “Separation of Church and State” comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a committee of the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut on January 1, 1802. Research at The Library of Congress has concluded that Jefferson wrote this as a political letter to reassure the Baptists that, contrary to the rhetoric of his political opponents, he was a friend of religion. This was not “a dispassionate theoretical pronouncement on the relations between government and religion.”

Jefferson’s line from this now infamous letter has been incorrectly attributed to the Constitution and Bill of Rights for decades. The phrase “Separation of Church and State” came to be included in our discussion of the First Amendment when Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black used it in the majority opinion of Everson vs. Board of Education in 1947.

By co-opting the line from Jefferson’s letter, the Supreme Court suggested that he meant there should be no religion in government. In fact, the original founders of the U.S. Constitution desired that the new government did not and would not establish any one particular religion as the official religion on the government, in stark contrast with other sovereign nations at the time. As the great majority of our colonists fled Europe in the face of religious persecution, a variety of religious beliefs existed across the thirteen states.

While Delaware Senatorial candidate O’Donnell missed the opportunity to explicitly educate the audience and media on the difference between the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses found in the First Amendment and the phrase, “Separation of Church and State” found in subsequent case law; she has started a national discussion on the issue.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Exercise Your Right to Vote in Adherence With Your Faith

With two weeks until Election Day 2010, polls are open for early voting in more than 30 states.  Join me in planning to early vote this week so you don’t have to worry about anything on November 2nd keeping you away from the polls.  

Catholics have a moral obligation to exercise our right to vote and participate in the political community as service to the common good.  (CCC 2240, CCC 2239).  Non-Catholic Christians also believe strongly in their co-responsibility to the common good of our society that necessitates exercising our voting privileges.

In preparation for voting, it is important to discern how our vote will correspond to our Christian beliefs.  Catholics receive direction from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, "A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law that contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals."   While average citizens are not often directly voting for programs or individual laws, we are responsible for electing candidates that will respect and follow our Doctrine of Faith.

To help you discern how to cast your vote consistent with Catholic moral teaching, Catholic Answers offers the "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics.” This short pamphlet walks the reader through the five non-negotiable values present in current politics, and offers direction for how to vote, how not to vote, and what to do when there is no morally acceptable candidate.   

The most important thing to do before casting your vote this election season is to think through the major issues, search your heart and decide what you believe and support.  Pray for God's guidance in discerning your vote in adherence with your faith. Then, please head to the polls and cast your ballot.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Conversation with Congressman Pete Olson

Last night I attended a small reception for the reelection of my Congressman, Pete Olson of the 22nd District in TX.    One of the few Republicans to take a House seat away from a Democrat in the 2008 elections, Olson now faces his first re-election.   While his seat appears to be safe, he is not taking this election for granted.  He asked this group of 40 voters to make sure we turn out to vote when early voting starts next week. He insisted that residents of the 22nd show up at the polls not only to vote for him, but also to support every other Republican on the ballot, from county judge all the way up to Governor. 

Congressional Redistricting
We cannot emphasize the importance of this election season in  state politics as well national.  Based on the projected census numbers, Texas stands to receive four new Congressional Districts.  This spring, our Texas Legislature will draw new lines, incorporating the new districts.  Therefore, it is imperative that the Republican Party widen their margins in the Texas House and Senate in preparation for the upcoming redistricting battle.  You may well remember how Texas Democrats fled the state to avoid quorum during the last redistricting session ten years ago.  We do not want a repeat of that costly and essentially unproductive stunt.

Hearing our Message?
During my opportunity last night to talk directly with Congressman Olson, I asked him if the Republican party has heard the message from the American people? Are they ready to stop deficit spending when they regain control of the House in January?   We discussed the importance of not only halting the unprecedented increase in spending but also returning to 2008 spending levels.  He pointed out that my niece - who will be born in a few weeks, already owes more than $30,000 to the federal government.  It is morally unacceptable to bankrupt our future generations in the name of bigger government now.

Pledge to America
When addressing the group he requested that everyone read the Pledge to America written and adopted by the Republican House members.  Through their Pledge, they promise in the next legislative session to return to First Principles, honor the Constitution, advance policies that promote greater liberty, wider opportunity, a robust defense, and national economic prosperity. They further pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values.  These are also the values and beliefs being expressed by grassroots Conservatives, Independents and Tea Party activists around the nation. 

House of Representative Powers
Congressman Olson reminded us that the House of Representatives possesses the power of the purse, which may allow them to effect major changes in policy even if they cannot override a Presidential veto.  The subpoena power is their second major power.  The American people are angry about the lack of promised transparency in government and oversight of the executive branch.  When Republicans regain control of the House, they can use subpoenas to force accountability in the federal government.

What can I do?
Even if your District appears to be a “safe” district, make a clear statement by showing up to vote!  In my District, I want Congressman Olson to win by a wider margin and to receive more votes than typical in a mid-term election.   We want to send a message to Washington that Texans are paying attention to how DC is attempting to transform our Great State.

Early Voting
Early voting in Texas starts Monday, October 18th and runs through Friday, October 29th.  Governor Perry’s campaign has made it easy to find your early voting locations in Texas.

Guide to All Texas Early Voting Locations provided by RickPerry.org
Guide to All Texas Early Voting Locations provided by RickPerry.org

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Introducing Bill White to Texas voters

In the countdown to Election Day, November 2, the ads for Texas Governor are flying fast and furious. While many of our friends across Texas may be familiar with Gov. Rick Perry, you might be interested in knowing more about former Houston mayor Bill White from someone who lives in Houston.

Hurricane Katrina

Bill White received kudos for his immediate bi-partisan response to the plight of victims from Hurricane Katrina and was decisive in his decision to accept the influx of hundreds of thousands of Katrina evacuees. Houstonians were deeply moved to volunteer and provide humanitarian aid; however, people in Houston and the surrounding areas were angered with the Mayor’s lack of long term planning and the resulting ramifications. An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Louisianans resettled in Houston, increasing our city’s population by 10% overnight.

While many people expected evacuees to eventually return to Louisiana, two out of every three stayed in Houston, straining all key city services – our schools, hospitals, emergency services and public safety. Many evacuees arrived dependent on Medicaid and the state's children’s health insurance programs. This increase to a system already struggling will “continue to be a financial burden to our system.” The increase in crime immediately following the evacuees arrival cannot be overlooked, even though many attempt to dismiss it because it was predominantly evacuee on evacuee crime.

Rice researchers, studying the sociological impact on Houston, found residents remain conflicted about the experience. Mayor White’s not well thought out good deed will continue to impact our city long after he has left office.

Houston Police & Firefighters Endorse Perry

Texas voters may be surprised to learn that the Houston Police Officers Association and the Houston Professional Firefighters Association publicly endorsed Rick Perry over Bill White. The third-largest firefighters union in the nation, Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, Local #341 President stayed largely neutral in speaking of the two candidates, stating simply that they have “a good working relationship … that we expect to continue” with Perry.

On the other hand, Houston police are not silent on their reasons for endorsing Perry over White. Though state and local media limit the story to a few short sentences, the Houston Police Officers Union PAC unanimously agreed to endorse Gov. Rick Perry.

In their own words officers speak out about Bill White for major understaffing issues, a number of broken promises, including White’s choice of outsider Harold Hurtt for police chief, and particularly the “sanctuary policy,” a general order prohibiting officers to ask about citizenship status. In the past four years, three policemen were killed, and two seriously injured by repeat criminal illegal aliens. Please remember Officer Rodney Johnson, Officer Gary Gryder, Officer Joe Pyland, Officer Richard Salter, and Officer Henry Canales.

Personal testimony starts at :29 on the video below.




Houston is Bankrupt

Perhaps the strongest indicator of White’s potential as Governor for is the economic and financial status of the city at the end of his term.

In March, current Houston Mayor Annise Parker addressed the financial state of Houston she inherited from former Mayor Bill White. “For years now, we have spent more money than we have taken in,” she said. “You can't spend more than you earn. It is a very unbusinesslike approach to running things.”

To offset budget deficits, services have been trimmed, a 30% increase in water and sewer bills over the next four years started this summer, and if approved by voters this November, Prop 1 would institute a new drainage fee on all Houstonians, including churches and schools traditionally exempt. Six months ago Parker raised the possibility of furloughs and layoffs for city workers, and called for police, fire, and municipal employee unions to offer concessions.

Texas Economy Remains Strong

During this time of economic uncertainty, Texas remains the strongest in the nation. As the world’s 11th largest economy, Texas experienced a delayed, slower decline than the overall U.S. economy. The Texas state comptroller reports that during the first seven months of 2010, reports signal “a Texas job growth rate that is more than three times the national average.”

In light of Bill White’s fiscal record as Houston Mayor before and during the initial effects of the recession, do we really want him responsible for the Great State of Texas’ economy?

We think it is important that Rick Perry continue to lead Texas, represent Texans, and fight for Texas in the coming months.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Catholic New Media World Updates

Before we start the weekend, I want to share a few updates on some of our favorites from the Catholic New Media world.

Matthew Warner at National Catholic Register shot lots of great video at the Catholic New Media Celebration in August and edited it together into 10 short videos. Each video shows many different podcasters and bloggers commenting on a shared question. The last video, #10, stitches together the outtakes from the recordings. Shelly and I made it into all ten videos, including some pretty funny moments in the outtakes.  Don't forget to take a moment and read his recent posts at NCRegister.  Matt is always right on the money.

Our good friend, Jeff Young, The Catholic Foodie recently released his first Catholic Foodie monthly newsletter. Shelly and I were invited to be contributors and submitted a column on family meal prayer. Jeff also began selling specialty Catholic Foodie Coffee, complete with a scripture insert. Guess what will be on my gift giving list this Christmas season!

If you listen to Jeff's Catholic Foodie podcast, you have heard both Shelly and I call in from time to time with comments or stories for his show. In episode #81, Jeff discussed his fun experiences at the CNMC. Listening to that episode gave Shelly and I both the warm fuzzies, because it was like listening to someone talk about a family reunion. We have so many great memories of the CNMC, and of Jeff particularly, that it was a real treat to listen to that episode. We love that he calls us "the blogging sisters." How fun is that? I think one day Shelly and I must take a road trip to New Orleans to visit the Catholic Foodie in his kitchen.

Let me also remind you that you need to go over to CatholicMom.com and check out  Lisa Hendey's site.  It is always full of helpful and inspirational columns, reviews, contests and commentaries. There really is something for everyone.  I visit often to supplement my lesson plans now that I'm a catechist. You can also find Shelly and I over at CatholicMom.com as regular contributors.

CatholicVote has updated their awesome website in time for this election season.  Head over there to check out their latest inspiring commercial and read about how Catholics can directly influence the upcoming elections. You will be amazed at the breadth of information assembled for you.  Better yet, complete the information in this widget below to get started and take action!





Monday, October 4, 2010

Caring for All of God's Creation

In support of my new parish during this growth, I’ve volunteered to teach CCE for my third-grade daughter’s class.  Our lesson last week addressed the story of Creation.  We read parts of Genesis, discussed all that God made and how through Divine Providence we now take care of God’s gift of Creation.

I asked for volunteers to share a picture they drew of themselves helping God’s Gift and listing ways to care for His Creation.  After a few minutes I realized that the children missed a major objective of the lesson, as each of them focused on one small part.  Every child save one, 18 in all, showed some way to recycle, plant a tree, a garden or preserve the oceans as their answer.  Only one boy drew a picture of himself helping other people for the exercise.

Is this a reflection of society’s values our children are learning?  That plants, trees, animals and the earth are more important than humans? Every day, their heads are filled with “Save the Planet” and “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” on the television, at school and on t-shirts.  Why are we not flooding our children with the more important message?

God created humans in His image.   We are God’s Creation.

God created us in His image and He calls us to show respect for all people, treating them with dignity.  As Christians, we believe that we are the most precious of all God’s creations.  We cannot care for nature at the expense of the human being. 

This year during Respect Life month, we need to shift our focus from “Saving the Planet” to “Caring for all of God’s Creation.”
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